Smoke and flames rise after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on May 12. (Haitham Imad/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

As a new round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians spirals toward all-out war, the death toll has grown increasingly lopsided.

On the Palestinian side, health officials say more than 100 people in the Gaza Strip, including more than 30 children, have been killed in Israeli military operations, including airstrikes and shelling. Israel has counted less than a dozen fatalities so far amid rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel’s sophisticated antimissile defense system and far greater firepower play major roles in explaining the imbalance — as does the unusual geography of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza City is more densely populated than Tel Aviv and other major world cities like London and Shanghai, and much more so than the areas of Israel that surround it. That means that even targeted airstrikes in Gaza have a high likelihood of hitting civilians.

Locations hit by air and rocket strikes in Israel and Gaza since May 10

Petah Tikva

Tel Aviv

The Palestinian militant group Hamas fired several rockets. Air raid sirens were heard across the city.

ISRAEL

Med.

Sea

Ashdod

Al-Shati Camp

Buildings in a refugee camp in Gaza City were destroyed.

Ashkelon

Sderot

Beit Lahiya

Gaza City Center

Israeli airstrikes destroyed a residential building and two towers that housed media offices.

GAZA

Zeitoun

Khan Younis

Rafah

10 MILES

Locations hit by air and rocket strikes in Israel and Gaza since May 10

Petah Tikva

Tel Aviv

The Palestinian militant group Hamas fired several rockets. Air raid sirens were heard across the city.

ISRAEL

Med.

Sea

Ashdod

Al-Shati Camp

Buildings in a refugee camp in Gaza City were destroyed.

Ashkelon

Sderot

Beit Lahiya

Gaza City Center

Israeli airstrikes destroyed a residential building and two towers that housed media offices.

Zeitoun

GAZA

Khan Younis

10 MILES

Rafah

Locations hit by air and

rocket strikes in Israel

and Gaza since May 10

Tel Aviv

The Palestinian militant group Hamas fired several rockets. Air raid sirens were heard across the city.

Petah Tikva

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a civilian neighborhood.

WEST

BANK

Mediterranean

Sea

Ashdod

Jerusalem

Al-Shati Camp

Buildings in a refugee camp in Gaza City were destroyed following an airstrike.

ISRAEL

Ashkelon

Beit Lahiya

Sderot

A Hamas rocket slammed into an apartment building and killed a child.

Gaza City Center

Israeli airstrikes destroyed a residential building and two towers that housed media offices.

GAZA

Zeitoun

Khan Younis

Rafah

EGYPT

10 MILES

Locations hit by air and rocket strikes in Israel and Gaza

since May 10

Tel Aviv

The Palestinian militant group Hamas fired several rockets. Air raid sirens were heard across the city.

WEST

BANK

Petah Tikva

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a civilian neighborhood.

Mediterranean

Sea

Ashdod

Jerusalem

Al-Shati Camp

Buildings in a refugee camp in Gaza City were destroyed following an airstrike.

ISRAEL

Ashkelon

Beit Lahiya

Sderot

A Hamas rocket slammed into an apartment building and killed a child.

Gaza City Center

Israeli airstrikes destroyed a residential building and two towers that housed media offices.

GAZA

Zeitoun

Khan Younis

Rafah

EGYPT

10 MILES

Children are also frequently harmed in attacks because they make up an unusually high percentage of the population: UNICEF estimates that there are roughly 1 million children living in the Gaza Strip, meaning that a little under half of all 2.1 million people in Gaza are children.

The burden of such conflicts “is just ferociously on the shoulders of civilians, and mostly women and children,” said Dmytro Chupryna, deputy director of Airwars, an organization that monitors civilian casualties. “Most civilian casualties we see is when civilians are hiding in the basement, because there’s nowhere else to run.”

The Israeli communities that surround the Gaza Strip are far less dense. Farmland dots the landscape, contrasting with the crowded skyline of high-rise apartment buildings along much of the Gaza Strip.

Population density

Low

High

Nile

Delta

NORTH

Cairo

Mediterranean

Sea

Gaza

City

EGYPT

100 MILES

Tel Aviv

GAZA

ISRAEL

Beirut

WEST

BANK

Jerusalem

LEBANON

Amman

Damascus

JORDAN

SYRIA

Population density

Low

High

Nile

Delta

NORTH

Cairo

Mediterranean

Sea

EGYPT

Sinai

Peninsula

Gaza City

Tel Aviv

GAZA

ISRAEL

Beirut

WEST

BANK

Jerusalem

LEBANON

Amman

JORDAN

Damascus

100 MILES

SYRIA

Beirut

Population density

LEBANON

Low

High

Damascus

SYRIA

Mediterranean Sea

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

Amman

Gaza City

Jerusalem

GAZA

ISRAEL

EGYPT

JORDAN

Sinai

Peninsula

100 MILES

Cairo

Beirut

Population density

LEBANON

Low

High

Damascus

SYRIA

Mediterranean Sea

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

Amman

Gaza City

Jerusalem

GAZA

Alexandria

ISRAEL

EGYPT

JORDAN

Sinai

Peninsula

Suez

Cairo

100 MILES

Beirut

Population density

Low

High

LEBANON

Damascus

SYRIA

Mediterranean Sea

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

Amman

Gaza City

Jerusalem

GAZA

Alexandria

ISRAEL

JORDAN

EGYPT

Sinai

Peninsula

EGYPT

Suez

100 MILES

Cairo

Approximately 1.4 million of the residents of the Gaza Strip are Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — well above half of the population. Refugee camps sprung up in the territory as Palestinians fled from the violence of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and continued to grow as more Palestinians were displaced as a result of the second conflict in 1967.

A high birthrate and the arrival of new refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria in recent years means that the population has continued to swell — and the United Nations expects it to double in the next 30 years.

Roughly twice the size of the District of Columbia, the impoverished Palestinian territory is surrounded by Israel on almost all sides. It also shares a small land border with Egypt.

Gaza

City

Gaza

2.1 million

people

Washington D.C.

Khan

Younis

690,000

Rafah

5 MILES

Gaza

City

Gaza

2.1 million

people

Washington D.C.

Khan

Younis

690,000

Rafah

5 MILES

Living conditions in Gaza are bleak: 95 percent of the population does not have access to clean water, according to UNRWA, and electricity shortages periodically bring life to a halt. The territory has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, World Bank statistics show, and the United Nations estimates that roughly 80 percent of the population relies on international aid to survive and access basic services.

In an area as dense as Gaza, Chupryna said, airstrikes run the risk of having secondary effects, hitting already weak infrastructure and leaving civilians without power or water.


Two young girls in an alley west of Gaza City. (Loay Ayyoub for The Washington Post)

Israel restricts travel outside the Gaza Strip and also maintains a blockade by air, land and sea that it says is necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining supplies that could be used for terrorism. But the blockade also tightly limits Palestinians’ access to basic supplies and food staples, and the U.N. estimates that it has cost the territory’s economy as much as $16.7 billion over 11 years.

Population

density

Haifa

2019 pop.:

285,316

High

Nazareth

ISRAEL

Jenin

Low

Netanya

Tulkarm

Nablus

Qalqilya

161,630

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

460,613

Ben Gurion

Airport

Ramallah

Modin

Ashdod

Jerusalem

225,939

936,425

Bethlehem

Ashkelon

Gaza City

Hebron

614,071

210,081

GAZA

ISRAEL

Beersheba

20 MILES

EGYPT

Population

density

Haifa

2019 population:

285,316

High

Nazareth

ISRAEL

Jenin

Low

Netanya

Tulkarm

Nablus

161,630

Qalqilya

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

JOR.

460,613

Ben Gurion

Airport

Ramallah

Modin

Jericho

Ashdod

Jerusalem

225,939

936,425

Bethlehem

Ashkelon

ISRAEL

Gaza City

Hebron

614,071

210,081

GAZA

Beersheba

20 MILES

EGYPT

Population

density

Haifa

2019 population:

285,316

High

Nazareth

ISRAEL

Low

Jenin

Netanya

Tulkarm

Nablus

161,630

Qalqilya

Tel Aviv

WEST

BANK

460,613

Ben Gurion

Airport

Ramallah

Modin

Jericho

Ashdod

225,939

Jerusalem

936,425

1949 armistice

Green Line

Ashkelon

Bethlehem

Gaza City

614,071

Hebron

210,081

ISRAEL

GAZA

Dead

Sea

Khan Younis

Rafah

180,354

Beersheba

10 MILES

EGYPT

Sea of

Galilee

Population

density

Haifa

2019 population:

285,316

High

Nazareth

ISRAEL

Low

Jenin

Netanya

Tulkarm

Nablus

161,630

Qalqilya

Tel Aviv

JOR.

WEST

BANK

460,613

Ben Gurion

Airport

Ramallah

Jordan

River

Modin

Jericho

Ashdod

225,939

Jerusalem

936,425

1949 armistice

Green Line

Ashkelon

Bethlehem

Gaza City

Dead

Sea

614,071

Hebron

210,081

ISRAEL

GAZA

Khan Younis

Rafah

10 MILES

180,354

Beersheba

EGYPT


Palestinians attend the funeral on May 13 of 15 people who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. (Haitham Imad/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

About this story

Sources: Satellite imagery via ESA Sentinel 2. Population density data is from WorldPop. Airstrike data is from Israel Defense Forces, Amnesty International, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Reuters. Population numbers for Israel and Gaza are from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2019). Population for Washington, D.C., is from the U.S. Census.

Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Copy editing by Vanessa H. Larson.

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